Increasing number of abandoned homes in Tokyo

As the population declines, Tokyo has more abandoned homes:

Despite a deeply rooted national aversion to waste, discarded homes are spreading across Japan like a blight in a garden. Long-term vacancy rates have climbed significantly higher than in the United States or Europe, and some eight million dwellings are now unoccupied, according to a government count. Nearly half of them have been forsaken completely – neither for sale nor for rent, they simply sit there, in varying states of disrepair.

These ghost homes are the most visible sign of human retreat in a country where the population peaked a half-decade ago and is forecast to fall by a third over the next 50 years. The demographic pressure has weighed on the Japanese economy, as a smaller workforce struggles to support a growing proportion of the old, and has prompted intense debate over long-term proposals to boost immigration or encourage women to have more children.

For now, though, after decades during which it struggled with overcrowding, Japan is confronting the opposite problem: When a society shrinks, what should be done with the buildings it no longer needs?…

Tokyo could end up being surrounded by Detroits,” said Tomohiko Makino, a real estate expert who has studied the vacant-house phenomenon. Once limited mostly to remote rural communities, it is now spreading through regional cities and the suburbs of major metropolises. Even in the bustling capital, the ratio of unoccupied houses is rising.

The population loss in Detroit and Tokyo are driven by different factors yet the Motor City could help other cities around the world think about what to do when the population decreases.

This particular article doesn’t talk much about negative consequences of having a lot of abandoned homes. Any problems with squatters? People tearing apart the buildings for scraps? Animals? Neighbors unhappy about the lack of upkeep? Bloated infrastructure costs that need to be reined in? Perhaps the consequences of abandoned homes are quite different across national contexts.

Two fun structures: an “underground temple” in Japan and a proposed underground skyscraper

Here are two interesting spaces, one underground proposal from Mexico City and a large piece of infrastructure in Japan.

1. A Mexican architect has drawn up plans for a building that is just the opposite of a skyscraper:

Suarez has imagined a massive building for those who prefer holes to heights and a novel solution around a law that bans structures higher than eight stories in the crowded, historic center of Mexico City.

Instead of a soaring tower, Suarez wants to dig an inverted pyramid nearly a thousand feet deep with enough apartments, stores and offices to hold 100,000 people.

Kind of sounds like an acropolis from Simcity. What would people do for natural light – would people be more willing to live far underground than high above a city?

2. A large piece of infrastructure under Tokyo is known as the “underground temple.” Its real job: help control floods.

The Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, also known as the G-Cans Project or the “Underground Temple”, is an subterranean water infrastructure project built to protect the capital Tokyo against floodwaters during rain and typhoon seasons. It is believed to be one of the largest water collection facilities in the world. Building began in 1992 and the massive structure now consists of five concrete silos, a large water tanks and 59 pillars connected to a number of pumps that can pump up to 200 tons of water into the Edogawa River per second. It has also become a tourist attraction, as well as a location for movies, TV shows and commercials.

This kind of looks like the depiction of the large temple-like spaces of Moria in The Lord of the Rings. This also reminds me of the Deep Tunnel project under Chicago which is also for floodwater – it is the largest infrastructure around (one of the largest such projects in the country – see some earlier pictures here) but hardly any Chicago area resident knows that it even exists.

(Two quick thoughts: both of these spaces would be large and impressive. Second, is getting one’s architecture news from Yahoo good or bad?)